‘We can’t live in those tents forever’- Jika Joe shack dweller

Jika Joe shack dwellers whose homes were gutted by fire two weeks ago are still staying in tents after Msunduzi repeatedly stopped them from rebuilding.

Approximately 20 shacks were burnt to the ground in a fire suspected to have been caused by an illegal electricity connection.

“We tried rebuilding the very next day but the municipality came and demolished the structures before we even finished. There was no explaination given, just that we are not allowed to build here,” said Plaas Mhlakwami.

He said on Monday he’d tried to rebuild for the second time since the fire but the City officials came and tore his shack down again.

Another resident, Thapelo Jakalasi, said they did not understand the reasons behind the municipality’s actions because no one had explained to them. He said he has lived in the area for more than five years and this was the first time he was treated with such contempt by the municipality.

“We can’t live in those tents forever. As it is I’m struggling with sleeping because it is so cold in there at night. It’s even worse when it’s raining because the water runs through the floor so I have to sit on the chair the whole night because I don’t have a bed,” he said.

The people living in the tents are also concerned about the crime in the area. They said they have turned into soft targets for criminals because they cannot lock up their belongings when they go somewhere.

“They [criminals] come and go as they please. Even at night they just unzip the entrance area and let themselves in to take whatever they want,” said Jakalasi.

Last weekend two corpses were found not very far from the tents and Mhlakwami said they are scared they could also suffer the same fate.

Ward councillor Nkululeko Mthethwa said the municipality needs the land for another housing project.

He said the shack dwellers were not supposed to have built there in the first place and they were repeatedly told to move even before the fire.

“I’m caught between a rock and a hard place because I have to call the land invasion unit to come and demolish whenever they try to rebuild but I also understand that they cannot live in the tents forever,” he said.

Mthethwa said he is in the process of trying to secure a meeting with mayor Themba Njilo to discuss the issue of the fire victims.

The development currently under construction is for flats that will form part of Msunduzi’s rental stock.

“Some residents will qualify for rental housing and those that don’t will be accommodated in RDP housing projects in other areas but that is all dependent on whether they legally qualify,” said Mthethwa.

Attempts to get comment from Msunduzi were unsuccessful.